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Jamie Robertson

Money Money Money: Need Some, Got Some

An update on recent fundraising drives around webcomicland.

Greg Dean is currently raising money to buy new servers for his popular webcomic Real Life.

Joe England of Zebra Girl is about 1/3 of the way to the stated goal of his fundraiser and Michael Jantze of The Norm is more than 1/2 way to his January 1st goal..

Desmond Seah of Bigger Than Cheeses is not actually very close to his stated goal of 50 trillion dollars, but we wish him luck anyway.

And finally, from the success stories file, Jamie Robertson announced that enough fans had signed up for a Clan of the Cats membership that he could continue to devote the time to making the webcomic.

Looking back at November

When I first did one of these "looking back" thingies I knew that it was likely that there would be months when nothing much happened, or perhaps at least nothing major happened. I am also willing to admit that I've been pandered with the news available for September and October. Enter November. And mind you, I'm not saying nothing happened in November, just that not a lot of similar or connected things happened. Still when reality lets you down, make things up. So sit back and enjoy a ride on the Apophenia railroad, next stop Speculationville.

A lot, most probably, of the creators of webcomics are happy amateurs, they write and draw comics because they enjoy it and because they have stories they want to tell. Some, however, have loftier dreams, they dream of print. I imagine that those are also the creators who dream of making comics their dayjob, but I may be wrong. Two news items from the beginning of the month made me contemplate the goal of webcomicers. The first was that Amber "Glych" Greenlee's No stereotypes got a publishing deal with Sonic publishing, the second was that Dave Johnson's Dog complex got picked up for online syndication on Universal press' Ucomics, not quite newspaper syndication, but a step on the way. I'm probably stating the obvious by saying that print, be it as a collection or as newspaper syndication is the holy grail for most webcomic artists that want to make comics their career.

This was once again brought forth when T Campbell and Gisele Lagace's Penny and Aggie left Modern tales for Comics sherpa as a first step towards traditional newspaper syndication. Now, no-one can accuse T Campbell of being a webcomic luddite, he has two other strips on Modern Tales sister site Graphic smash, but it is clear from a post on the Penny and Aggie board that he is not a believer in the syndication schemes put forth by Keenspot and Scott Kurtz. It seems that no "look back" is complete without linking to Websnark (I actually can't remember if I linked to him in the October look back, if not I'll buy Burns a beer if we ever meet, since I live in Sweden I'll categorise that as doubtful). I imagine that most people reading this has already read Burns' essay on the syndicated cartoonist's view of Kurtz and Keen. If you haven't read it I implore you to do so. Don't bother finishing reading this thing, you can come back to it later.

The point I'm trying to make (or think I'm trying to make) is that if online and print is going to clash it won't be in comic book stores or the graphic novel section of Barnes and Noble, it will be in the funny pages. Perhaps I'm wrong about syndication as a goal, I once again refer you to Burns and his comment on Penny and Aggie:

These days... there's a real feeling on the web that syndication isn't needed, that it isn't even desirable -- that if you syndicate, you lose control over your creation and your licensing and you undergo restrictive editorial oversight. It's almost odd to see a couple of webcartoonists saying "hey, I want to be in the newspapers. I want to get paid for this -- paid by someone else, someone who isn't me doing all the grunt work -- and get the exposure of hundreds of newspapers printing my work."

This opinion is certainly present in the replies to Campbell's post. But I also note that before launching his free syndication scheme Kurtz did negotiate with Universal (I believe it was) about syndicating PvP the traditional way and Tatsuya Ishida is now up to 11 rejections by syndicates. Perhaps the old syndication model is dying, but it's not going to go peacefully.

And to end with something complete (or almost completely) different I note that Michael Jantze's The Norm now has 2431 members, but has extended the deadline to reach the 4000 needed for Jantze to keep it alive to December 31st. Jamie Robertson (Clan of the Cats) has 191 of the 200 needed to keep his comic alive.

Oh and the next time we take a look back it looks like it will be in the form of a real Comixpedia column, I suppose that will mean that I will have to try to actually make some sense instead of these stream of consciousness posts.

Hindsight is an exact science.

As the end of September approaches it might be interesting to look back at what webcomic events made the headlines.

Professional webcomicers
September saw two webcomic creators take the leap and try to turn their hobby into professional careers. In truth I suppose it would be more correct to say that Howard Tayler, creator of Schlock Mercenary, took the leap and Jeff Rowland, creator of Wigu, was pushed. While Taylor assures his readers that he and his family is in no critical financial situation as a result of his career change, Rowland notes that he needs the support of his readers.

I will need your support, however, in the coming weeks. As bad as I despise the entire "donations" aspect of Inter-Net art, I am going to ask for your help in a fund-raiser of sorts, if only to secure my habitation.

Will draw for food
Rowland is not the only webcomic creator that found himself forced to make a career change. Jamie Robertson also found himself out of a job and announced that Clan of the Cats would end at christmas without finishing the current Dracula story line. Robertson also has a fund-raiser of sorts as a possibility for continuing COTC, Sebo's kitty klub. I'm not sure how well that has worked, the only figure I heard was that he needed 250 subscribers and at the time of the announcement he had 16.

This was, however, not the last creator to turn to his readers in attempts to build a bussiness model in September. Michael Jantze, creator of The Norm, did the opposite of what many webcomicers aspire to and left syndication after finally becomming fed up with it. His wife apparently conviced him to try the webcomic route and he agreed IF she could get enough subscribers by November 1st.

How many subscribers do they need?
As previously noted Jamie Robertson needed at least 250 each paying 2,50 USD to keep doing his comic. Jantze needs 4000 subscribers to keep going, each paying at least 25 USD. Some swift calculations bring the sum of money to a minimum of 100 000 USD unless I'm mistaken... They currently have 661 subscribers. As an extra incentive they give away one ipod mini to a subscriber as they reach each 1000 subscriber plateau.

This made some ripples in the blog-pond as several people gave their opinion on these events. Most seemed to agree that 25 dollars was somewhat expensive. I'm reminded of the sister of a friend of mine who made a living as an artist. She an exhibit where she showed her latest works that were sheets of photopaper that had been run through an x-ray machine at the airport (or something like that). The pricetags on these artworks were, in my uneducated opinion, rather high and when I asked her about it she explained to me, much in the same way one explains something to a child, that if they were cheap no one would buy them.
Anyways, it is interesting that The Guardian online also had a story about online charity, or cyber-begging, including a couple of paragraphs on Randy Milholland. But perhaps the most interesting entry was by Eric Burns of websnark entitled "On supporting webcomics and the survival of the fittest fandoms".

The question is, how many fandoms is the average webcomic reader a part of, and how many of them can they afford to support

Who snarks the snark
Websnark is no doubt one of Septembers success stories. The quality and quantity of its entries propelled Websnark onto most "Must read"-lists. This quote from Joey Manley's blog pretty much sums it up. is the talk of webcomicsland right now. Everybody who's anybody (yes, I'm an elitist -- and so are you, actually) is reading it.

Modern tales
Speaking of Joey Manley ofcourse brings us to the topic of Modern tales. That Modern tales and its sister sites have relied on subscription sales as a bussiness model has probably noone missed, but now they also sell adspace.

Subscription support will continue to bear the most weight in our business model, but we have decided to try to mix it up a bit, especially now that banner advertising seems to be coming out of the post-dotcom-crash doldrums.

September also say the debut of Graphic novel review, edited by Alexander Danner. A strong first issue shows promise of greatness and even got plugged by USA today.

The Webcomic examiner
The webcomic examiner will be allowed to wrap up this little trip down memory lane. Septembers issue had a great cover by Chris Watkins as well as a focus on the work of Derek Kirk Kim. Some really good stuff and I do believe that they are starting to find "their voice". There was also a "guest editorial" of sorts by Barb Lien-Cooper entitled "Webcomics have rights".

While I'm the last person in the world who wants to cause trouble, something about comic book review sites on the web is starting to bother me. It's the fact that many web sites dedicated to comic book journalism simply refuse -- often without explanation -- to review web comics.

Replies to this at Cognitive dissonance blog and Trickle of consciousness did not agree with her sentiments though.

Well that ends Septembers round up of things. Got an opinion on this, I'm itching to hear it. Perhaps I'll try to add some actuall analysis of events for next months roundup (if I do one that is).

Getting On Board the Relationship

Webcomics, like most other narrative forms, rely upon interaction and conflict to drive their plots. Fight with your roommate, go out with friends, have dinner with your significant other, argue with a waiter, meet a new boyfriend’s buddies, have lunch with your ex’s new ex, or stave off an alien invasion and save the planet. These everyday occurrences provide a launching point to tell a story, develop a character, or make a point.

When we talk about relationships everyone’s first thought is usually the boyfriend or girlfriend type of attachment. But that’s far too limiting. There are an infinite number of relationship types out there and romantic ones are merely a subset. Family ties, friendships, professional or co-workers relationships, and housemate situations are some of the more common (and most often presented), but every day we interact with all sorts of people in all sorts of ways.

More on The Norm Subscription Drive

A couple of thoughts this morning on Michael Jantze's break from the syndication model. I had an exchange of emails with his wife Nicole yesterday. Apart I think from a naive enthusiasm that the Jantzes were trying something new in the world of comics (although everything in the world of webcomics is still "newish" Jantze is trying out several revenue strategies already pioneered by others) she seemed to be passionate about working with Michael to support his ability to continue creating The Norm. Without naming a specific figure she did say that Michael desired to match his salary (from syndication revenues I guess. Any takers to try and calculate something like that?) and that as of yesterday they were 10% to that goal.

Scott McCloud weighed in on Tuesday with a supportive comment. T Campbell was also supportive in concept but made the fair point that we can "subscribe" to every comic (he indicated he would be giving his money to Jamie Robertson instead. Robertson, while never syndicated, is in a similar situation to Jantze).

I also noticed that the pitch for money on The Norm subscriber page is pricey by webcomics standards. I will be interested to see how that goes? Is Jantze asking too much? Are other popular webtoonists asking too little? How much cache comes from being a previously syndicated cartoonist?

UPDATE: Saw that Eric had also posted some similar thoughts on these recent developments earlier this week.

Clan of the Cats Ending?

Recently Jamie Robertson of Clan of the Cats lost his job. What else is new in this economy?

His unemployment may lead to the demise of the five year old fantasy comic, Clan of the Cats. Currently a donation drive is underway, however, Robertson has also put forth another idea to help. For $2.50 a month, you can subscribe to Sebo's Kitty Klub which will garnish you 4 Sebastian oriented B&W strips and one COTC wallpaper a month. Other things may get thrown in with time. Yearly subscriptions are available for $25.00. The humor of SEBO, the weekly SKK strip, is very reminiscent of the early days of COTC only with better art. That means it's funny and looks good too.

"I don't want to end COTC." said Robertson. "I don't think anyone would want to end their dream, but if something doesn't change by Christmas I'll have to."

Is it just a bad time of year?

Maybe its just me, but I've noticed quite a few comic artists are having troubles lately, whether due to work or maybe life has just kicked them in the balls(or whatever would hurt a woman most). It seems like everywhere I turn there's a new comic asking readers to spend some cash or the comic will die.

I'm not saying some of the claims aren't legitimate(hell I think there's plenty of online comics that are worth MORE than a few bucks a month). But why now? Is it because Something Positive is now a paying job that people think they can do the same? Or maybe there's a few out there who think they can turn a little profit.

Thoughts? Opinions?

Also, just a side note, anyone want to place some bets on when we can find "Donate to keep this comic alive" buttons(as opposed to the "tip jar" idea many places have) on irregularly updating sprite comics?
:D 5 bucks says it's already being done I just can't find it yet.


Clan of the Cats ends at Christmas

Jamie Robertson announced at the Keenspot forums that the Clan of the Cats will end at Christmas without finishing the current story line.

It is with a heavy heart that I announce that COTC will end this Christmas. The Dracula story line will NOT be concluded. There will NOT be a COTC graphic novel either. The situation is this. The place where I work, and have been working for nearly 20 years, can no longer afford to pay me. I work at a Photography studio and current technology has made the professional photographer all but obsolete. I don’t want to end COTC, but being forced to find full time employment will eat into my time and it takes a lot of time to do Clan of the Cats.

Found through T Campbell's Science Fiction blog.

Recommended Romances: A Quickie Poll

"What's your favorite webcomics romance?"

T Campbell asked this question of many webcartoonists. The answers were revealing.

Catty or Chatty? CotC's Jamie Robertson talks with Al Schroeder

For over five years now in the Clan of the Cats, Jamie Robertson has been chronicling the adventures of a witch/were-panther in the person of Chelsea Chattan. He has also introduced two spin-offs, Mythos and Magic on Graphic Smash and Melpomene on Keenspot Premium. In this interview with Al Schroeder, Robertson talks about his comic, chivalry, and his gaggle of cats.

Cheesecake Chelsea may also be invoked.